Epilogue: Nostalgia and Counter-Nostalgia in New York city writing

Bryan Waterman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In the mid-1940s, the New Yorker writer Joseph Mitchell created a 93-year old resident of the South Street Seaport named Hugh G. Flood - not quite antediluvian and not quite postdiluvian, either. He was a “tough Scotch-Irishman,” a composite of “several old men” Mitchell knew from the Fulton Fish Market. The “truthful rather than factual” sketches Mitchell wrote about Mr. Flood were “stories of fish-eating, whiskey, death, and rebirth.” The title character, an inveterate consumer of freshly imported seafood, dispenses wisdom on topics such as the medicinal properties of oysters (including where to find the best ones in lower Manhattan and Brooklyn) and complains that scientists have ruined the most basic foods (he gives Mitchell’s narrator the inside scoop on where to find a decent, old-fashioned loaf of bread on Elizabeth Street). Like Mitchell’s other writing for the New Yorker, these stories featured people and places representative of older, threatened, but persistent remnants of the city’s past. Mitchell’s Mr. Flood is a “retired house-wrecking contractor,” a participant in the never-ending capitalist ritual of tearing things down to put new things up: “creative destruction,” as the economist Joseph Schumpeter, a contemporary of Mitchell’s, put it.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to
Subtitle of host publicationThe Literature of New York
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781139002844
ISBN (Print)9780521514712
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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